How to Manage Conflict in the Workplace
Workplace conflict can have a positive outcome that strengthens relationships, increases communication, and allows teams to develop better ideas that will benefit the company.
So why do some people avoid conflict? It is most likely due to poor experiences in the past or lack of knowledge about how to have a healthy debate with a co-worker. At Annex, we use a tool called the Experience Cube to guide an individual through conflict resolution by removing emotions and focusing on the issue.
The first step in implementing the Experience Cube to resolve conflict is being willing to have a courageous conversation. In most cases, if you encounter an issue with a colleague, speak with the person directly before escalating to a manager. Ask the person if they are available for a conversation. This can be as simple as a closed-door talk, a quick walk, or even a coffee break. When you have private time together, use this four-step process.
Start the conversation by stating a fact. This is the root of the issue and the behaviour you want to change. For example, “What I observed is that you were not able to meet the deadline that we set together.”
This is the point of the conversation when you state why you think the issue happened. We suggest giving the person the benefit of the doubt. For example, “I think the reason why you missed the deadline is that you may have had a higher priority.”
Describe how you feel. In every Experience Cube, this step is critical to develop empathy and a full understanding between the two parties. For example, “It makes me feel that you do not think this project is important.”
After stating your observation, why you think it happened and how it makes you feel, the final step is asking for what you want to happen in the future. For example, “In the future, can you let me know in advance if you cannot meet the deadline so I can create a backup plan for getting the task done.”
Learning how to receive feedback is also beneficial. Feedback is a gift and it takes courage for a person to come forward to have an Experience Cube conversation with you. Hear them out and let the person know you heard what they said. Last, but not least, try to understand the feedback from the perspective of the other person. You do not always need to agree with the feedback, but it is important to be open to it, process it, and make that determination. Often feedback can help to eliminate blind spots and misunderstandings.
There you have it! The Experience Cube is a simple method for solving workplace conflict with honesty and respect. If you wish to learn more about how to build a great work environment, we recommend reading The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. It is a quick and easy read that describes the many pitfalls a corporate team faces such as the absence of trust and fear of conflict. Check out this book review by Annex.